Itzhak Perlman offers comfort in concert
Members of the Pittsburgh Jewish community gathered at Heinz Hall on Tuesday, Nov. 27, for a free concert headlined by Israeli-American violinist Itzhak Perlman, Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra music director Manfred Honeck, PSO principal clarinetist Michael Rusinek and the Mendelssohn Choir of Pittsburgh. The “Concert for Peace and Unity” event honored the 11 Jews murdered Oct. 27 at the Tree of Life synagogue building, as well as the city’s first responders.
After hearing of the anti-Semitic attack and the efforts to stage a concert, it was a no-brainer for Perlman to participate “when they called me,” he said in a phone interview following the event. He wanted “to support the families of the victims and to give them as much comfort as possible.”
Each of the artists donated their services, according to the PSO.
The show, which was recorded and will be televised nationally by PBS (WQED in Pittsburgh) on Dec. 11 at 8 p.m., featured Perlman and his fellow musicians offering solace by way of such pieces as Maurice Ravel’s “Kaddish,” an arrangement of “Eli, Eli,” (“My God, My God,” — the Hebrew words appear in Psalms 22:2) and songs from Steven Spielberg’s 1993 film “Schindler’s List.”
While the music was powerful, Perlman was struck by the collective recital of the Mourner’s Kaddish.
Rabbi Hazzan Jeffrey Myers, the spiritual leader of Tree of Life*Or L’Simcha, who at points joined Perlman on stage, agreed. “The power of saying Kaddish particularly after the Ravel ‘Kaddish’ was played I thought was a powerful cathartic thing to help us move forward as a community.”
The hymn has an ability to conjure up the sentiments of mourning and the glorification of God without mentioning either, he added.
Perlman’s Nov. 27 performance, which occurred exactly one month after the Tree of Life attack, was preceded a day earlier by a communitywide service marking shloshim, the conclusion of 30 days of initial mourning. The service at the Pittsburgh Marriott City Center included a recorded message from Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks, former chief rabbi of the United Kingdom.
Meanwhile, a tri-lingual shloshim service for Joyce Fienberg (one of the 11 victims, and whose family lives in France) was held at the Great Synagogue in Paris a day later, on Nov. 28. A public siyum, which marks the completion of a unit of Torah study, organized by the Kollel Jewish Learning Center in memory of the 11 victims was held on Sunday, Dec. 2 at Hillel Academy of Pittsburgh.
Prior to the concert at Heinz Hall, “I didn’t know when my personal shloshim would end, because to me it was not merely a counting of days,” said Myers. However, by the concert’s end something had changed, and it was precisely “when the carillon chimed 11 times that I noticed.
“As tears poured down my face, I once again invoked the Psalms [121:1-2], ‘I lift my eyes to the mountains: from where my help come? My help comes from God maker of heaven of earth,’ and I just felt this immense weight lift off my shoulders as if God was saying to me, ‘I’m with you, we’re going to be OK,’” he added.
Prior to the show, Perlman met with family members of the victims.
“We have to get together and support each other,” he said. PJC
Adam Reinherz can be reached at